The purpose of this article is to review progress in the field of abdominopelvic adhesions and the validity of its two underlying assumptions: (1) The formation of adhesions results in infertility, bowel obstruction, or other complications. Reducing or avoiding adhesions will curb these sequelae. (2) ‘‘Adhesions’’ is a monolithic entity to be tackled without regard to any other condition. Evidence is discussed to validate the first assumption. We reviewed progress in the field by examining hospital data. We found a growing trend in the number and cost of discharges for just two adhesion-related diagnoses, and the low usage of adhesion barriers appears in at most 5% of appropriate procedures. Data from an Internet-based survey suggested that the problem may be partly due to ignorance among patients and physicians about adhesions and their prevention. Two other surveys of patients visiting the adhesions.org Web site defined more fully adhesion-related disorder (ARD). The first survey (N¼466) described a patient with chronic pain, gastrointestinal disturbances, an average of nine bowel obstructions, and an inability to work or maintain family or social relationships. The second survey (687 U.S. women) found a high (co-) prevalence of abdominal or pelvic adhesions (85%), chronic abdominal or pelvic pain (69%), irritable bowel syndrome (55%), recurrent bowel obstruction (44%), endometriosis (40%), and interstitial cystitis (29%). This pattern suggests that although ‘‘adhesions’’ may start out as a monolithic entity, an adhesions patient may develop related conditions (ARD) until they merge into an independent entity where they are practically indistinguishable from patients with multiple symptoms originating from other abdominopelvic conditions such as pelvic or bladder pain. Rather than use terms that constrain the required multidisciplinary, biopsychosocial approach to these patients by the paradigms of the specialty related to the patient’s initial symptom set, the term complex abdominopelvic and pain syndrome (CAPPS) is proposed. It is essential to understand not only the pathogenesis of the ‘‘initiating’’ conditions but also how they progress to CAPPS. In our ARD sample, not only was the frequency of women with hysterectomies (56%) higher than expected (21 to 33%), but also the rates of the ‘‘initiating’’ conditions was 40 to 400% higher in patients with hysterectomies than in those without. This may represent increased surgical trauma or the loss of protection against oxidative stress. Related was the higher frequency of ARD patients reporting hemochromatosis (HC; 5%) than expected (0.5%) and the higher rates (20 to 700%) of initiating conditions in patients with HC than in those without HC. Together with findings related to the toxicity of Intergel, these findings raise the possibility that heterozygotes for genes regulating oxidative stress are at greater risk of developing surgical complications as well as more severe and progressive conditions such as CAPPS.
KEYWORDS: Adhesions, adhesion-related disorder, complex abdominopelvic and pain syndrome, chronic pelvic pain, hysterectomy, iron overload, hemochromatosis